From the Archives: Karen Eubank Explains How to Stage “Naked” Properties

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Greyson sofa with Clover chairs courtesy of Cort Furniture Rental
Greyson sofa with Clover chairs courtesy of Cort Furniture Rental

[Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared on CandysDirt.com on Oct. 24, 2014, but it’s still as useful as ever considering the hordes of requests stagers are receiving to furnish vacant properties.]

One of the most requested staging services is furnishing a vacant property, what I call a “naked” listing.

Every day, Realtors call stagers asking for a ballpark figure to furnish a house followed by, “Can you install tomorrow?”

But it’s not possible to estimate a property accurately without seeing it. The cost to stage a multi million-dollar Preston Hollow mansion and the cost to stage a $350,000 Lake Highlands ranch are wildly different. First, the stager needs to preview the property, which includes photographs, measurements, space planning, and mentally selecting items for the house. The next step is creating the estimate. That process requires selecting specific furniture and accessories, figuring out labor costs and delivery fees. This can take hours, and stagers charge a fee to do this (so you see why tomorrow is out of the question.) Then the staging and furniture rental contracts have to be written. Believe it or not, your project is only one of many being prepared on any given day.

Once the estimate for furniture is received, the stager gets this call, “Wow, this is a lot more expensive than I was expecting.” Well, what exactly were you expecting? In a typical vacant staging on a $350,000 home, there are easily 20 to 30 separate pieces of furniture and accessories used to create an inviting atmosphere.Then there’s the labor that goes into placing the furnishings, hanging the artwork, unpacking and installing accessories, steaming the bed linens, and scheduling repairs, landscaping, and cleaning crews before the actual staging of the house even begins. Tired yet?

When the house sells, the stager returns and goes through the de-staging process of coordinating and meeting delivery trucks, packing accessories and putting them back in the warehouse. They can’t do that tomorrow either. Most stagers have a contract clause requiring a two-week notice to de-stage a property.

No one likes a naked house. People buy homes because they make an emotional connection and that’s very hard to do when a buyer walks into a vacant space. Is it always possible to furnish your listings? No of course not. Sometimes sellers can’t afford it, but when you break down the cost versus return, many of them will have that “Ah-Ha” moment and they will make the choice to stage.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s a lot less expensive to stage than to lower the price of the house. Vacant staging is an investment. Check with your tax professional and you’ll find it’s often a marketing expense. According to Dallas CPA David Moffat, “The seller would include the cost of staging, including furniture rental along with other ‘fixing up expenses’ that increase the original basis (cost) of the house and therefore reduce the gain on the sale.”

Karen EubankKaren Eubank is a top stager in Dallas and counts several well-known real estate agents among her clientele. She lives in Hollywood Heights with her son and her silk orchid collection that everyone thinks is real. Find out more about Karen on her website.

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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